The Presence of Presents

Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas this year? Funny question to ask since all month I’ve been trying to emphasize His Presence over their presents.

20121230-170154.jpg A and a friend bringing in the Advent chain right before mass procession

Needless to say, like many families there was a blur of wrapping paper on Christmas morning. Not only did the kids get awesome stuff from Santa (who not surprisingly, gives our kids one thing they wanted on their Christmas list plus a bunch little things like candy and books in their stocking)…

Santa found a REALLY good deal on a drum set for A

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What a coincidence that Santa get M the very video game he was saving up for!

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And Santa gave L the castle she’s been wanting for the last two years! L asked me to open the box and wasn’t heard from again for the next several hours!

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…two days later R took the kids out to spend their Christmas money from their grandparents. OMG! I guess you’re never too young to enjoy Christmas money and gift cards!

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Christmas toys mean they will be able to part with gently used books and toys so others less fortunate can enjoy them. Mommy will be doing the same with her gently used books and clothes-that-I-have-to-part-with-already!

With the influx of new toys and clothes, will you be donating stuff you no longer use also?

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More of Less Please

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Christmas came and went faster than this Starbucks peppermint mocha. With my husband R not being able to travel home until December 20, I probably subconsciously didn’t allow myself to fully enjoy the season until he could enjoy it with us. Add to the fact I held off on putting up Christmas decorations until you’re “supposed” to. The day after Thanksgiving, that is.

I’ve always put up Christmas decorations early, out of guilt that the kids were having another Christmas without their beloved Daddy, of sadness that I had to put up and take things down all by myself again, out of wanting to feel something other than the lonliness that comes with the territory of being a military spouse. I’m pretty sure one year I put up the Christmas tree the day after Halloween. Wouldn’t you do that for your kids?

Wouldn’t you do that for yourself?

This year I waited.

This year Christmas went too fast.

Will I hold off next year? Will we actually finish the Advent chain next year? Will the kids not get the flu during winter break?

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Only time will tell.

Also in case you didn’t notice, we totally sucked big time when it came to our Advent chain! The purpose of our Advent chain was to give the kids something to think about other than themselves. With the dog getting sick, with caring for one another when one of their siblings got the flu (yes, they all got it one right after the other!), with volunteering at church, and with making cards and treats for our family, friends, and neighbors I would say mission accomplished!

This year the kids got less and didn’t mind or didn’t notice. Not that I didn’t want the kids to get anything, but I wanted them to really appreciate the people, the thought behind the gifts. I wanted them to feel like they had to acquire stuff. They helped me make cookies and treats and packed them into boxes to be mailed. They hand delivered treats to our neighbors. I think they’re getting it.

Last night we played The Big Bang Theory board game.
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Tonight as I enjoy this coffee all by myself (compliments from my sister-in-law and her family, not to mention the gift card from my husband’s grandparents!), R and the kids are playing some sort of role-playing game which he forbade me from disclosing on this blog. If I happened to TAKE A PICTURE OF THEM PLAYING, it wouldn’t count, right?

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The dogs are fine. Buddy, the bigger dog, had a check-up last night and now we are waiting on blood test results. He is a riot, especially at the vet, since he believes himself to be the size of the chihuahua. He SITS NEXT TO ME at the vet and tries to hug me when I am sitting or standing.

Yes, all sixty six pounds of him!

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Had the dog or the kids not gotten sick, I probably would have felt guilty about not doing more, not giving more, not spending more. It sounds silly for me to say it out loud (or in this case, see it with my own eyes) but these would have been the expectations I would have imposed on myself.

This year I see everyone content with less, everyone happy to just spend time with each other, everyone just chillin’ and grateful for friends and family.

I see homemade presents and time spent with each other deemed more important than anything anyone could ever buy. If we don’t have each other, we don’t have anything at all.

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Green Means SLOW DOWN

There are no words to even comprehend what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. The message that resonates whenever tragedy occurs is to cherish each day, love everyone, and love yourself.

This is a message that we need to practice and remember every day.

This blog helps me remember and allows me to share. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Sending virtual hugs to all of you around the world!

M just got his green belt this month.

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A wanted to make Christmas trees: sugar cones, frosting with green food coloring, sprinkles, leftover Halloween candy. She invested so much time in making them and making them pretty because she thought they were gifts for someone else. Imagine the expression on her face when I said the Christmas trees for her!

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The Figure 8 Flexibility

We went ice skating yesterday. Nine bucks a person?! What?!

Needless to say I made sure we skated a long time.

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A wanted to take a picture next to the TARDIS.

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This video is pretty boring but watch what L does at the beginning and end when I ask her to pose for a picture. Stay warm, my friends.

Happy 11th!

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My son celebrated his eleventh birthday. We went to IHOP for his birthday.

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Little do they know that their kid-sized breakfasts will still be too big!

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Talking to Daddy while he recovers at a friend’s house in Virginia

His cousins came over for a slumber party. We had pizza and birthday cake. They made Christmas ornaments made out of salt dough. (I used this recipe and the dough turned out just right. Not too dry, not too wet.)

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R and I gave him an ukelele for his birthday. It is made of real wood with an abalone inlay. The sound that emanates from this instrument is amazing! Last month I decided to formally teach the girls how to play the piano. I went to a local music store and bought beginner lesson books for both of them. A has a plastic (still functional but plastic) ukelele and on a whim I decided to buy a chord book for the uke. Twenty-four hours later M memorized all of the chords. He can play several songs already! Needless to say, he loves that ukelele. (So do I!)

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R and I were two first-time parents, newlyweds for less than a year, when M came along. Neither of us had family in Augusta, GA so we did it by ourselves for a while. I think we did a pretty damn good job.

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Happy Holidays from NWC

I made this sign out of leftover cardboard from toy packaging and Dollar Tree tinsel. I like hanging stuff with clothespins on our blinds. It changes the feel of the room easily and quickly. Most of the clothespins are decorated with ribbon using nothing more than a hot glue gun.

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Our church is putting together a parish directory and we got a free 8×10 just for getting our picture taken.

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We been baking a lot also. I only make my special chocolate chip cookies once a year for a reason, the reason being I would seriously eat them all.

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They are that good. I don’t tell ANYONE in my family how I make my cookies but I’ll tell you. You can find the link here and instead of two teaspoons of vanilla, you should add two tablespoons. Enjoy and come back and tell me that those cookies you just baked were the best ever!

The Faking It Fluctuation

Another two weeks with Daddy have come and gone in the blink of an eye. This morning we were up at five in the morning to take Daddy to the airport again. Thank goodness for Daylight Savings Time or I would be even more useless than I am now.

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We have been busy for the last two weeks, having volunteered for two major church events. I subbed for five days. We had a photo session; the church is preparing a directory for members featuring a free portrait for each family. I wish I could have taken a picture of the kids when they were posing. The boy was totally uninterested and the middle girl was copying the boy but the youngest? The youngest was posing for the camera even before the photographer told us to sit down!

The boy (with notification for his teacher and the office) took a day off to hang out with Daddy. He really needed that one-on-one time. The middle child had an afternoon last Friday with Daddy all to herself. The youngest didn’t take any time off since she’s in kindergarten for only three hours a day.

Last night we went to get pho (Vietnamese soup) and ice cream for dessert but on Monday we picked up the kids right after school. I told them everyone was coming with me to run errands.

“Errands?” The boy practically shouted. “Can’t I go home?”

“Nope,” I said. “And there’s a new shoe store down the road. I want to buy more shoes.”

Ahhh… the groans in the car were deafening.

So we drove to the movie theater and watched the movie they had been waiting weeks to see, Hotel Transylvania.

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We rarely go to the movies. No, wait. R usually is the one who takes the kids to see movies. I don’t mind. It’s their thing so I was pretty excited to go to the movies with them– all five of us together. It was rather fun to sit next to my husband during a movie and hold hands. We snuck in homemade cookies from R’s family which are long gone by now.

Today I had to get a bunch of handouts ready for an elementary kids’ group at church as well as teach Sunday school for kindergarteners.

All was going well until…

1. I realized I was teaching THE SAME LESSON AS LAST WEEK.

and

2. I realized I was missing FIFTY HANDOUTS.

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Honestly, what could I do at that point? Pretty much nothing. No, wait. I owned up to my mistakes (apologized to the director of Sunday school and last week’s teacher who were both really understanding and go-with-the-flow about it; left a message with other teachers in charge of handouts and had my kids finish up what they could).

People around me wonder how I can do what I do without my husband to help. Working, taking care of the kids, volunteering, pets, NaNoWriMo, you name it… I don’t know how I do it either. I guess I have a really great talent for juggling or faking it, at the very least.

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The Ghoulish Turbulance

If you scroll down and see two Scream characters, do not adjust your screen. We seem to pick up extra kids all the time. My husband R is the creepy dude without eyeballs. My brother, a former Marine and current dork, is Finn from Adventure Time! Hope you had a great Halloween!

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The Cumpleanos Constant

For the fourth time in my marriage, my husband was home to celebrate my birthday. Turning 38 last Monday was by no means sad or depressing for me. It felt rather triumphant, to be alive for this long, to be happy and content with everyone in my life and content with everything I have.

After R got the kids ready and dropped them off at school, we went out to breakfast at a little European restaurant in Sacramento. The last time I went my friends and I were doing research for Oktoberfest and sampled different German pastries. R and I had omlettes and indulged in croissants and macarons from the bakery. It felt indulgent to not only eat them but a bit evil since we ate them without the kids.

We went to Barnes & Noble where I chose my presents, the book The Twelve by Justin Cronin (awesome sequel to an equally awesome book, The Passage)

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and this little guy

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who says “EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE!” and “YOU WOULD MAKE A GOOD DALEK!

On Saturday we had family come over to celebrate the October birthdays of myself, my brother, and my uncle.

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There were many who were unable to attend but we still had a great time.

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My daughter A felt the absence of her cousins but noticed that her other grandparents (R’s parents) were not there. It’s only temporary though, we tell her, because soon when Daddy’s retired we’ll be able to drive out east to see the other half of our family at least once a year.

Speaking of R’s family, we got a scrumptious care package from his parents…

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Clearly, there were more treats in the box when we opened them but somehow the treats keep disappearing…

I’ll have more photos soon. Have a wonderful and safe Halloween!